Acting Toward Social Change
Edited By David J. Connor, Jan W. Valle and Chris Hale
Introduction: A Brief Account of How Disability Studies in Education Evolved
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A Brief Account of How Disability Studies in Education Evolved
DAVID J. CONNOR, JAN W. VALLE, AND CHRIS HALE
It is not without irony that the interdisciplinary field of disability studies (DS) was allegedly a little slow to warm up to the field of disability studies in education (DSE). After all, many disabled scholars within DS report having experienced firsthand, more often than not, schooling practices that institutionalized and segregated, stigmatized and pathologized their sensory, physical, cognitive, and/or emotional differences. Moreover, the terms disability and education have long been monopolized by the field of special education whose foundational knowledge base is predicated upon scientific, medical, and psychological understandings of human difference. Thus, special education came to conceptualize disability as a deficit, something absent, suggesting an incomplete human who needs to be fixed, cured, remediated, and shaped into the mold of normalcy at all costs. As DS scholar Mike Oliver (1996) noted, there was a marked mistrust of research methodologies and related knowledge claims as they were deemed by people with disabilities to be “at best irrelevant, and at worst, oppressive” (p. 129).
In contrast, DS, an academic discipline that grew out of grassroots, rights-based politics in the 1970s, focused upon the ways historical, social, cultural, political, and economic framings of disability simultaneously came into play with other discourses of disability (including those previously mentioned that undergird special education)—impacting the degree of access that...
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